The Bob Cousy Award list was whittled down from its original 60+ names in the preseason to a more manageable 20 on Wednesday afternoon. In case you’ve lost track of what the Cousy is specifically for, it is the award given to the nation’s top point guard/floor general in college basketball. Often that player will also be in the running for National Player of the Year honors, as in the recent cases of Jameer Nelson (2004), Ty Lawson (2009), and Kemba Walker (2011). Last year, you might recall that Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor was somewhat infamously left off the February list of 10 finalists, causing the Naismith Hall of Fame brass to reconsider and eventually reinstating the All-America Badger onto the list where he advanced to become one of the five finalists before Walker was selected for the award. To be clear, this version represents the preliminary finalists before the super-finalists before the super-duper-finalists list. The committee will make two more cuts over the next eight weeks before awarding the prize to the winner during Final Four weekend in New Orleans.
The Cousy Award Is Prestigious Because It Is Given By the Naismith HOF
Let’s take a look at the current list, and signify using (10) or (5) the players who we expect to advance further. A few notes follow after the jump:
Welcome to our RTC Impact Players series. The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season. Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package. As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy. What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays. Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.
Northwest Region (UT, WY, MT, ID, AK, WA, OR, NorCal)
Isaiah Thomas – Jr, G – Washington. For the Pac-10 favorite Huskies, it is the smallest guy on the floor who will have the biggest impact. In each of Isaiah Thomas’ two previous collegiate seasons in Seattle, he has been at best a secondary option. Two years ago it was Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon who were the senior leaders (even though Thomas still led the team in scoring) and last year it was Quincy Pondexter. Nowadays, the 5’8 junior point guard is clearly the face of the program, a lightning-quick, high-flying, pint-sized lefty with a penchant for scoring, even over larger defenders. Thomas is a versatile offensive player, at his best with the ball in his hands and going to his left, but capable of being a scoring threat in all manner of situations. He is not yet a great three-point shooter, but upped his average to a solid 33% as a sophomore and seems poised to push that number up a couple points again this season, a tool which could be deadly given his explosive first step and ability to finish with any number of acrobatic shots in and around the lane. Thomas also excels at drawing fouls and getting to the line, where he also upped his efficiency as a sophomore to 73%, a number upon which he should improve yet again. One offensive area where Thomas is still finding himself is in terms of getting the rest of his team involved. For instance, there was a stretch of three games at the start of the Pac-10 season last year where he handed out just one total assist. He picked things up in this area down the stretch and averaged two more assists per game in the last 14 games of the season than he did in the first 22, and not coincidentally, the Huskies were a better team over that span, posting an 11-3 record. With senior Venoy Overton and sophomore Abdul Gaddy also capable of running the point for the Huskies, Thomas does have the ability to play off the ball for head coach Lorenzo Romar, but Washington is just more dangerous when Thomas has the ball in his hands, and if he can continue to improve his playmaking skills while still maintaining his explosive scoring ability, everybody on the team will be better for it. Defensively, Thomas is excellent in the open court and away from the basket with his quick hands and feet, but, as is the case with anyone his size, he has been a defensive liability at times in the halfcourt game, a weakness somewhat mitigated by the Huskies’ use of aggressive pressure from Thomas and Overton to keep opponents from getting comfortable in a half-court set. And really, wherever Thomas is on the floor, his talent and ability make it difficult for any opponent to get too comfortable.
Thomas May be Small in Stature, But Not Talent
Jeremy Green – Jr, G – Stanford. Last season the Stanford Cardinal were, by and large, a two-man gang. Green and Landry Fields were the only two players to score in double figures and between the two they accounted for almost 39 of Stanford’s average of 69 points per night. With Fields now plying his trade at the next level, the onus for the Stanford offense falls squarely on Green. Green came into last season with the reputation as a designated shooter, after knocking down over 45% of his threes as a freshman on his way to 6.4 points per game, and although he showed an increased proficiency off the bounce as a sophomore, it is still his shooting that opponents need to fear. With his minutes doubled last season, his production more than doubled as his scoring average jumped to 16.6 PPG nightly. In the process, he set a new school record for threes in a season with his 93 makes, and more than half of all his attempts, and makes, were from behind the arc. Green will be called on again to be a big scorer for Johnny Dawkins’ club, and he’ll need to show that he is capable of wearing a target on his back on a nightly basis and still succeeding. Despite Green’s increase in scoring as a sophomore, he did see his three-point percentage dip seven points to 38% last season, and minus Fields’ ability to create opportunities for teammates, Green could find matching last season’s efficiency more difficult. However, expect the Cardinal to run plenty of plays for him, running him off screens both with the ball and away from the ball, allowing him to find shots in both catch-and-shoot situations or even off the dribble. While Green is not an explosive athlete and isn’t often a threat to take the ball all the way to the rim, he is effective at using his dribble to find a spot from which to hit his jumper, although it would be nice to see him attack defenders more with an eye towards getting to the line; he only attempted 92 free throws last season, a shame for an 80-plus-percent shooter. Also, with the ball in his hands, Green doesn’t present much of the threat to the rest of the defenders on the court, as Green is ineffective at finding his teammates for open looks, notching just 25 assists all of last season. Green is a pretty good rebounder for a guard, grabbing 3.8 rebounds per game last season, while defensively, he is merely competent. With his running mate from last season now departed, Green is clearly the go-to guy on the Stanford offense, and he’ll need to show that he is capable of handling those duties, but the next step for the proven shooter is to find ways to get his teammates involved more often, and find ways to get himself to the charity stripe on a more regular basis.
Yesterday we introduced our 2010 RTC Big Four State Tournament, and it was great to see some of the responses and feedback on it. We’re convinced this is going to be a fun series. Today we’re back for the second day of First Round games (the right side of the below bracket), including our analysis and projected winner, but we encourage you guys to make your picks for each game in the accompanying polls.
In case you missed yesterday’s post explaining what we’re talking about, here’s our selection criteria:
Similar to the Fanhouse post, we picked the top four programs in each of the 33 states (including DC) with at least that many D1 universities.
We then chose the top sixteen states based on the current status and power of those four programs within each state.
Next, we chose a starting lineup ”dream team” of players from those programs in each state, thinking about how to best integrate them by position (three guards & two bigs; or vice versa).
We also chose two subs — one guard and one big man — as well as a head coach.
We limited each school to two starters and one bench player for a maximum of three per team (sorry, Duke). We also made sure to include at least one player from each of the four chosen programs (hi, Seattle).
Finally, we seeded the sixteen teams into our bracket and analyzed the matchups. We encourage you to use the polls below to do likewise.
#2 North Carolina vs. #15 California
The first thought we had when analyzing this matchup is… that’s all you got, Cali? Good grief — the nation’s most populous state by far can only muster a lineup of players that includes Jorge Gutierrez as a starter? No offense to the ponytailed energizer bunny from Cal, but this game is a mismatch from start to finish. Sadly, even if we had included every single one of California’s 24 D1 schools and added some studs like Stanford’s Jeremy Green, LMU’s Drew Viney and Vernon Teel, Santa Clara’s Kevin Foster, San Jose State’s Adrian Oliver and the St. Mary’s backcourt of Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavadova, the Tar Heel Staters still wipe the floor with this team. Maybe California could draft Kobe Bryant, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry to their squad? There’s simply too much talent on Coach K’s team from top to bottom (sound familiar?) for his team to sweat this one too terribly much. The only area that North Carolina has a problem with California is in the post, where SDSU’s Kawhi Leonard can take advantage of the slighter frames of the NC bigs to put in some work. But the speed, athleticism and scoring punch of the #2 seed is far too powerful here. North Carolina rolls in a blowout.
RTC Choice: North Carolina 82, California 59.
#7 Washington vs. #10 Tennessee
The matchups at the two guard spots and the wing are tantalizing in this game. The fatal flaw with the boys from the Volunteer State is their lack of a true point guard. Adding Melvin Goins or Brad Tinsley to the roster would have meant sacrificing one of Wesley Witherspoon, Scotty Hopson, Jeffery Taylor or bench ace John Jenkins, and it’s hard to blame coach Pearl for not making that move. Luckily for him, his team is loaded with intriguing first round talent, albeit at times inconsistent and frustrating talent. It also helps that Washington’s point man, Isaiah Thomas, isn’t much of a distributor either. Although Elias Harris may be limited by the length of Taylor, it’s his Zag teammate Robert Sacre that’s primed for a monster performance being guarded by Brian Williams at 2-3 inches shorter and the inexperienced Tobias Harris. Plus, we haven’t even mentioned Klay Thompson, a popular choice for Pac-10 Player of the Year. It’ll be a well-played back-and-forth game, but we have the Washingtonians moving on.